ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Monday Ubani, has said that following the multiple court rulings in last Friday in the case to resolve issue of the authentic Governor of Abia State, there was no more legal or constitutional barrier preventing Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah from being sworn in as the governor of the state.
Ubani in statement made available to Sundiata Post on Monday, noted that if the current constitutional and judicial interpretation of the scenario was to be applied, Ogah should assume the office of the governor.
He explained that the summation of what seemed like conflicting Federal High Court rulings in Abuja, Osisoma, Abia State and Owerri, Imo State, was that Ogah remained the valid candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and by implication, the governor of the state.
He stated: “Two things or decisions took place on July 8, 2016 at both federal high courts in Owerri and Abuja that require some clarifications to all and sundry. The first was the one involving Sir F.N Nwosu, a fellow contestant to the primary election of PDP in December 2014, who also took Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to court on the same tax issue, but in his own case he made allegation of forgery against Ikpeazu contrary to S182(j) of the 1999 Constitution as Amended. His contention was that since Ikpeazu was not qualified to run for the primary election because of the alleged forgery of his tax papers, he who came joint fourth (with 5 votes) should be declared the governor of the state as he and only Ikpeazu signed the result sheet.
“On why he should be preferred against Ogah who came second in the primaries, he argued strenuously that Ogah and other contestants did not sign the result sheet apart from Ikpeazu who apparently is now no longer qualified to have run for the primaries. As I predicted in most of my write-ups before now, he had his case thrown out for lacking merit and substance.
“Forgery is a criminal offence which requires proof beyond reasonable doubt and since he was unable to prove forgery, he had his matter dismissed. However, the judge acknowledged that the tax papers of Ikpeazu contained some discrepancies.”
In his ruling last week, Ubani said, Justice Okon Abang refused to grant a stay against his judgement of June 27, 2016 in a sister case initiated by a group of PDP stalwarts in Abia.
He said: “The court ruled that since the Certificate of Return has already been given to Dr. Uche Ogah, he does not see what to stay any more in his judgement. On Ogah’s matter proper, the judge held that since his lead counsel, Mr. Iziyon (SAN) has consented that appeal has been entered by the appellant, the Appeal Court which is now seised of the matter will determine applications if any and also determine the merits of the appeal proper. He refused to grant any stay to the appellant, in this case to Ikpeazu.
“The matter as it stands today is that Ogah is the governor of Abia, legally speaking, but he must be sworn in and take his oath of office, declare assets before he can start to act in that capacity as a governor.”
He, however, noted what he described as “a very funny injunction was earlier in the course of last week obtained in Osisioma Ngwa High Court restraining the Chief Judge of Abia from swearing in Ogah”.
“I understand that order has been extended to God knows when. That injunction is patently illegal, disorderly and unknown to law. Indeed can a court properly called restrain a public officer from carrying out his or her duty donated to him or her by law? I don’t know of any such precedent. The Chief judge of Abia State, therefore, cannot be validly restrained from swearing in Ogah. If she fails, refuses and or neglects to carry out her constitutional duty, it will be a ground for disciplinary action against her by the National Judicial Commission in the near future.
“The Court of Appeal will also ultimately pronounce on this absurdity in the near future. Our judiciary which we have absolute confidence in, knows how to resolve knotty issues like this,” he remarked.
The legal practitioner said that he had discussed Section 141 and 143 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended exhaustively, noting that both sections are applicable to issues arising from tribunal decisions and do not concern pre-elections matters.
According to him, reading of S133(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended gives a clearer view of the definition of tribunal and court used in those two sections.
Ubani stressed that the latest decision in Jev and Iyortom by the Supreme Court has finally settled the issue of whether a person who is the right candidate for the general election but whose name was not submitted by the Party to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can be sworn in even though he did not participate in the general election.
“That case said yes, he can, provided that he is the right candidate whose name should have been submitted to INEC instead of the wrong candidate who eventually won the election,” he stated.
“Once again I call on the Attorney General of the country, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the inspector General of Police to ensure the orderly and immediate swearing-in of Ogah as the next governor of Abia State as nature abhors a vacuum which is actually the case now in Abia State,” he urged.